Semi-Retired and Loving It

April 7, 2010

Devote six years to your work but in the seventh go into solitude or among strangers so that your friends, by remembering what you were, do not prevent you from being what you have become. ~Leo Szilard

Everyone should have a sabbatical every so often. I have been working practically non-stop since I graduated from college in 1975. It has been next to impossible to separate my self from my work. Yet in recent years, I have longed to be reacquainted with who I am outside of my vocation. Not that there are radical differences, just that work (as I engaged it) has taken vital energy, energy that I now crave for learning how to be (as opposed to do) in the world. Perhaps others are able to do both at once, but I have always found it difficult, as I chose a vocation about which I was truly passionate. My colleagues were my friends; my friends were my colleagues, for the most part.

And now I am working only half-time in preparation for retirement. There is time for rest, for reflection, for getting reacquainted with my soul.

I think the concept of sabbatical is brilliant. According to Wikipedia (could be true!), 20% of British companies have a career break policy. In the U. S., it seems that only academic and spiritual work environments offer sabbaticals. And those sabbaticals can feel like just more work. I believe enlightened workplaces could offer sabbaticals that give the employee great latitude for self-exploration, with few “products” expected. Life is process. Can businesses honor the process, the individual quest for self-understanding, spiritual enlightenment if you will, and still be profitable? I believe so. And certainly the social services should give inherently underpaid and overstressed employees a periodic break from their labors.

What do you think?


Prickly Pear

January 9, 2010

If you brave the heat and gritty sands to reach us
Chollas
prickly pears of independent bearing
We can fuel your midnight fires
fodder your lean and loyal burros.

~Marti Keller

My heart is overflowing with the poems of my dear friend Marti. I am a lucky recipient of her chapbook, Prickly Pear, a stunning and beautiful collection of her early poetry.

This work feeds me like the Chollas, but is smooth as moonstones. A few exquisite words paint the richest stories of love, lust, longing, tenderness, melting snow and fierce independence; words that say as much by what is not there as by what is. I will read and reread these perfect and complete poems, in gratitude.


Meditation

August 9, 2009

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Prayer is the voice of longing; it reaches outwards and inwards to unearth our ancient belonging. ~John O’Donohue

I can’t say that I’ve done what most people call prayer in decades. But I actually showed up on my cushion today. (Hooray!) Meditating reminded me of the beautiful string of black and white meditation beads that my friend Elaine made and gave to me a few years ago. I adapted a sort of litany to use with them, and I suppose this qualifies as prayer, really.

Centering (large center bead)
Breathe in and out several times, quieting body and mind

Warm-up (four small beads)
Let me open my mind and heart
To the place of quiet,
To the silent prayer for the healing of pain,
And the soft, gentle coming of love.

Naming (first medium bead)
Count the miracles and blessings in your life.

Breath (five small beads)
Breathing in,
I calm body and mind.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is the only moment.

Listening (second medium bead)
Feeling what comes
Self-appraisal
Places that call for reconciliation and atonement

Breath (five small beads)

Letting Go (third medium bead)
Empty the mind

Breath (five small beads)

Loving (fourth medium bead)
Lift up those in pain or need

Cool-down (four small beads)
May the courage of the early morning’s dawning,
And the strength of the eternal hills,
And the peace of the evening’s ending,
And the love of god, be in my heart.


A Poet Must Write

November 12, 2008

A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What one can be, one must be. ~Abraham Maslow

So begins a terrific book on writing by Laraine Herring, Writing Begins With the Breath: Embodying Your Authentic Voice. I am definitely adding this one to my list of favorites (see Writers on Writing). Yesterday I shared it with Teresa, and we made a date to write together. Hooray!

After reading this book, it occurred to me that my nagging desire to go for a PhD might just be a result of my frustration about not writing. Hilda Downer said, “If someone thinks writers are crazy when they’re writing, he or she should see them when they’re not.”

Today, I am grateful for Teresa, for Laraine Herring, and for awakening once again to my desire to write.


Blogsickness

July 2, 2008

There is nothing that can stop the Creative. If life is full of joy, joy feeds the creative process. If life is full of grief, grief feeds the creative process. ~Stephen Nachmanovitch, in Free Play: The Power of Improvisation in Life and the Arts (p. 196)

Again I will say that this is one of my favorite books. The last chapter, from which the quote is taken, is called “Heartbreakthrough.” I love that idea, and in fact have been having visions of my heart breaking wide open. Although I must say, I have not been able to tell that my grief of recent days has fed the creative process. It must have (else from whence came visions?), but I’ve been “blogsick” at being unable to write here lately.

So I’m glad to be back at the keyboard today, talking to myself with a hope that someone kind is eavesdropping. Iris Dement in person last week, what can I say? Claudia said I was acting like it was Elvis, and I said, “Iris is my Elvis.” The enormous fun I had with friends brought my loneliness into sharp relief. Iris didn’t sing “Got No Time to Cry” but I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

Have you ever had a heartbreakthrough? I feel one coming on…


Graces

June 15, 2008

It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop.  ~Vita Sackville-West

Life has been slipping by these past few days, with work-related travel, oppressive heat, visiting relatives who are not well, and general malaise. But I’m told there is at least one person who misses these blog entries when I don’t do them (besides me). So Janice, this one’s for us!

I’m behind in reading my Shambala Sun issues, so I took a half-finished copy with me on my recent trip to south Georgia. I was struck once again by how much I enjoy that magazine! I’m not sure I even consider myself a Buddhist, (although it’s probably the organized system for which I feel the most affinity), but there are always authors and articles within the Sun that inspire and teach me. So it is one thing I am grateful for today.

Another is the steadfast love of my husband waiting to greet me from my travels. There is language that enriches my life immeasurably. True friends who teach me something about the impact of my presence on earth and who want only the best for me. Yoga that helps me focus my attention on my body. Music, always music, that has the magical ability to lift my spirits and my spirit. Of course there are too many things to list here; these are just a few that grace my life.

What comes to mind when you consider life’s blessings? How does it change from day to day, month to month, year to year?


Change of Habit

February 11, 2008

“Yep, son, we have met the enemy, and he is us.”  ~Pogo

[Here I had copied the Pogo comic strip/Earth Day poster, 1971, from Wikipedia-see it here.]

I have just returned from three days at the Okefenokee Swamp, home of the beloved Pogo. Alligators basked in their muddy depressions on the peat “blow-ups”, great egrets and white ibises sailed over the cypress trees, and a tannin-colored wake followed our tour boat on Billy’s Lake. The Swamp is a National Wildlife Refuge now, but a logging company stripped most of the oldest cypress growth in the early 1900s.

Yet life abounds in this swamp, and I was reminded of the restorative properties of being outdoors. So why did I spend so many hours indoors in our cabin–knitting, playing Rummikub, and sitting with friends? Because part of my objective was rest and change of habit, taking a break from the usual. That I did. Now I want to find the entire run of “Pogo” and read it as an adult! 🙂